When the Credits End

As soon as we get the all-clear, we flood the aisles to gather into bags the buckets & boxes & cups (empty, full, it makes no difference), to mop the sticky spills that threaten to pull shoes from feet and feet from shins, to sweep into big-mouthed dust pans whatever our brooms can rouse, to suck up with vacuums all that’s loose and in sight: Whoppers & Milk Duds, ticket stubs & napkins, Sno-Caps & Raisinets, Skittles & Junior Mints.

I’ve come across some awful things, but once I found a diamond ring. The gold wasn’t true and the man in the pawn shop with a loupe in his eye like the tiniest telescope said the stone was glass so I kept it because it was still pretty. But sometimes what’s left behind by the tide makes me wonder about the lives that wash in, bob about, wash out.

The perks, though! This is what I once thought, but even the best movies eventually ruin themselves, becoming nothing but flickering litanies. And free popcorn loses its allure once the counterfeit scent of butter embeds in you like a yellow tattoo.

But before we fill the aisles, we wait outside the swinging doors to watch the faces as they exit. How slack & blank they are, how innocent & pale, like hermit crabs pulled from their shells, but inside, they’re still bubbling with laughter or love or the most thrilling terror. They’ve not yet risen to rejoin us in this world of the damaged & damaging, but until they hit the cruel surface, they’re lovely.